The European Union (EU) on Thursday inked a €75 million immediate support package to the Gambia government at a landmark signing ceremony presided over by President Adama Barrow at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.

The historic signing by Neven Mimica, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development comes as the European Union also readies a medium term package of €150 Million, which seeks to focus on building the capacities of the state as well as on job creation.

The Gambia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians abroad Ousainou Darboe welcomed the development, describing it as an important event in the post dictatorship era.

Darboe expressed gratitude to the EU for coming to the aid of the Gambia not only by way of material support but also their efforts in shaping the right direction for the new Gambia.

“The Gambia is on the part to true democracy”, the veteran politician said, saying that the decision to withdraw the county from the International Criminal Court will be rescinded.

For the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, the signing ceremony is testimony to the EU’s full commitment to engage The Gambia in opening a new chapter. He said the visit is s clear signal of the EU’s readiness to provide immediate financial and technical support to the democratic process in the Gambia, adding that the President has their full support.

Neven Mimica said the peaceful democratic change in The Gambia is the result of the determination of the Gambian people. He said the EU is fully committed to engage with President Barrow and his government, saying they want to be a privilege partner of the new Gambia.

“We will be on his side and the side of the new Gambia”, he promised.

The top EU official also lauded the step taken by the regional bloc, ECOWAS, to resolve the recently political crisis. He said that is an example of an African solution to an African problem.

Mimica singled out food security, agriculture, rural development, Climate change and job creation for youths and women as focus areas of the new EU-Gambia partnership. He believed that The Gambia needs all of her sons and daughters  to rebuild the nation.

“In addition to the €75 Million package of immediate support signed today, we are already preparing a medium term package of €150 Million, which will focus on building the capacities of the state and on job creation,” Mimica said.

Mimica explained that the package comprises a project of €10.5 Million to reinforce access to most vulnerable population, including female headed households to markets and socioeconomic facilities. He further explained that €20.5 million will aim at creating growth and employment opportunities, €11.5 million for food security, €21. 5 million for climate change, and €11 million for creating job opportunities for youth among other things.

He added that the EU would also step up its support to sustainable and inclusive development of the country in close consultation with the new authorities.

President Adama Barrow for his part described the day as one of “special significance to us”, adding, they view the EU Commissioner’s visit as a strong vote of confidence in the new Gambia.

“It also marks the opening of a new and refreshing page in our friendly relationship and development cooperation”, Barrow said.

President  Barrow wasted no time in putting into context the massive rebuilding  job at hand  saying “as a new government, what  we  have inherited is  an economy that is virtually bankrupt and in need of a rescue”. He said what is truly scary is that our reserves are down to about two months of imports.

“What is truly scary is that our reserves are down to about two months of imports; our debt burden reached unsustainable levels due to wasteful public spending,” he pointed out.

As a new government, President Barrow said they have inherited an economy that is virtually bankrupt and in need of immediate rescue, saying this sad reality was brought through mismanagement of state funds.

“A dictatorship that cost us our friends, a dictatorship whose conduct deprived us of development aid and a dictatorship that was brutal towards its citizens,” President Barrow said.

President Barrow highlighted the increment of forty percent youth unemployment and under-performing of public enterprises due to debt. He also dilated on the urgent need for structural reforming of the economy, public institutions including the civil service, judiciary and the security services.

“That dark chapter in our engagement with the EU is now closed. Genuine dialogue is the new way forward,” he reiterated.

He appealed for an emergency budget support in order to rescue the economy from the brink of collapse.

By Famara Fofana and Lamin Sanyang